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Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Prepping A Composition Book For Art Journaling

Remember the composition books with the marbled covers that you used when you were in school? They are still around and lots of people use them to journal in. They have become popular as journals for all kinds of things. You could use them for doodling in, as a planner. as a daily diary. The notebook that I am journaling in has all kinds of information about Christmas. It has ideas, yearly information, who we celebrated with, and more. You can customize your book for your needs.

After all, they are reasonably priced and perfect for beginners to start with. They come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. 

The best composition books to use are the ones with sewn pages. Open the book halfway through to see if you see stitches. Those are the ones that will hold up best. 

If you are buying them online, see if you can see in the description how they are bound.

The first thing that you will notice is how thin the pages are. So before you get any further with your pages, you need to thicken them.

Starting With The Cover


  • Composition Notebook-the lined versions are everywhere. But if you can find the grid notebooks, they are easier to work with
  • Mod Podge or other decoupage medium-I prefer to use the matte gel medium
  • Scrapbook paper or gift wrap
  • White copy paper
  • Paper trimmer
  • Colored duct tape
  • A flat paintbrush-grab an old one because you will be using it with the Mod Podge
  • A foam brush-You get fewer brush marks
  • Scissors
  • A sharp craft knife
  • A cutting mat or board
Note- If you are using scrapbook paper or heavy wrapping paper, steps 1-3 can be avoided. Go right to step 5
  1. Start by covering the front cover of the notebook with a thin layer of the Mod Podge, using the flat paintbrush. Work quickly and make sure to get all around the edges. As you are working, hold the cover away from the inside pages. Or you can put a piece of parchment or waxed paper cut larger than the cover of the notebook behind the cover. You are not covering the spine of the book, only the part with the marbeling.
  2. While the glue is still wet, Apply the copy paper to the front of the notebook. Start at the spine and smooth outward. Start at the spine and smooth outwards, Make sure that the edges are smooth and adhered to the cover. Check again to make sure that there are no air bubbles.
  3. Repeat on the back cover and allow the project a drying time of at least 2 hours( I like to let it dry a minimum of 4-5 hours. )
  4. Using a craft knife, trim any excess paper away from the covers. Go right to the edges. You should now have a notebook covered in white paper with neat clean edges.
  5. You are now ready for our next layer of glue. Just like you did in Step 1, apply a thin, even layer of Mod Podge over the white paper layer. Work quickly so your glue doesn’t dry up before you’re finished applying it. Remember to smooth it with your sponge brush. Smooth, smooth! The paper is going over the white paper or marbled section, not the spine
  6. While your glue is still wet (I know I’ve already said it, but it’s really important that your glue is thin, even, and wet. Otherwise, your paper won’t adhere properly), apply your decorative paper sheet, starting at the spine and working your way outward. Since you just did this in Step 2, you’re already an expert paper smoother. Look at you go! Once your pretty paper is safely applied to both sides of the notebook, let the whole thing set for 2 hours.
  7. Once everything is nice and dry, go around the edges again with your craft knife to remove the excess paper.
  8. Coat the whole notebook with one more layer of Mod Podge to seal everything.  Pay special attention to the edges since that’s where you’re most likely to get lifting.
  9. you can cover the spine with colored duct tape that matches your paper. It may take more than one strip to cover the entire spine. Smooth any air bubbles and trim the top and bottom edges with your scissors.

*Quick Tip: If you’re using gift wrap, you’ll need to cut your paper down to a size you can work with. Use a paper trimmer to get a nice even cut.

Before You Begin-Remove Pages

As with any other altered book, the first thing to do is to rip out some pages so that you have the space to add other embellishments and media to your journal. 

You can use a ruler, a craft knife, or just rip them out as close to the binding as you can. 
  1. Start by ripping out every other page in the entire book
  2. Then go back and rip every 2-3 pages.
You should have 30-35 pages. But it's up to you how many pages you would like to have, Be sure to save the pages, They can be used in other projects and journals.
There are different options when you want to add strength to the pages of your composition book. The one tip to this process is to make sure that any media or glue you use is spread out evenly and thinly.
Whatever process you use, make sure to put pieces of waxed paper or parchment paper behind the two pages you are working on. That way the glue will not adhere to places that you want to stay clean.

Getting The Pages Strengthened

Option 1- Glue Two Or Three Pages Together

All you need for this option is some white craft glue and either an old credit card or a foam brush. If you use a foam brush, make sure to rinse it out right after you use it so that you can reuse it again.
  1. Spread the glue evenly on both pages, edge to edge. It is important to get the glue right to the edge of the page.
  2. Press the pages together. You can run a brayer or a bone folder along  the pages on both sides to flatten them more.
  3. Secure some of the edges with paper clips until the pages dry, usually within an hour or two.

Option 2- Add Scrap Paper To Thicken The paper

Now you will want to strengthen the pages by adding paper on top of the pages that you have already done by strengthening them together.

You can use any paper that you have -copy paper, scrapbook paper, old telephone books, other book pages. Use whatever you have on hand. You can add whole pages with glue spread out evenly. Or do a random collage effect. 

If you are using whole sheets to cover the page, follow option 1.

  1. Rip pieces of paper into manageable pieces
  2. Apply a coat of Mod Podge matte to the page
  3. Once the page has been covered with paper, apply a sheet of waxed paper over the top
  4. Roll a brayer over the top of the page to get all the air bubbles out of it and flatten the page.
  5. Leave the waxed paper on the page until the page dries
Note: You can do several pages at the same time as long as you leave the waxed paper between the pages.

Random Collage Effect

So simple and so much fun. To do this effectively you can either use white PVA craft glue or decoupage glue. Mod Podge is the most well-known decoupage medium.

You can use any paper that you have on hand. Just rip pieces of paper and apply them to your page with glue. Use different weights and kinds of paper to get the look and feel that you want. Then put a coat of glue over the entire page and allow it to dry.

I like to do both sides of the page with this technique but remember when making a journal like this there are no rules, That is the fun of it!

Gesso The Page

Because you will be adding all kinds of media to your pages, you will want to use gesso to cover the pages. That will give the pages extra strength and tooth for the paint or whatever you use as your background.

Gesso comes in white, black, and clear. But you can add a bit of acrylic paint to the gesso to add a base color to your page.

Spread the gesso on top of the page and allow it to dry. Now you are good to go!

What are the options for the next step? We will take that up on the next post!

In the meantime, we have added some supplies that you may need for your project. These supplies may have some earnings attached at no extra cost to you. 

Till next time! Happy Crafting!


How To Turn A Composition Book Into An Art Journal

Supplies For This Project

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